Quick and Dirty Guidelines for Children’s Publishing Genres
Word Count – 500-800
Description – Picture books are large in physical size and combine words with captivating illustrations. Picture books center around a child’s world - usually home, school, or neighborhood. The illustrations play a significant role in telling the story with some picture books have no words at all. The plots are simple with one main character/animal who embodies the child’s emotions, concerns and viewpoint.
Where the Wild Things Are, Goodnight Moon, Heart and Soul, The Polar Express, Fancy Nancy
Early Readers/Easy Readers
Word Count – 500-1,500 Words
Description: Early or Easy Reader Books are written for children to read on their own. They have short sentences, limited vocabulary, and center around a child’s world - school, neighborhood, or home. Early/Easy Readers have more words and fewer pictures than a picture book, with some stories broken up into very short chapters. The plot is told mainly through action and dialogue, with books averaging 2-5 sentences per page. Genres can be fiction or nonfiction.
Examples: Madeline’s Tea Party, Marley: The Dog Who Ate My Homework, Amelia Bedelia, Nate the Great, “I Can Read” Series
Word Count – 4,000-12,000 Words
Description: Chapter books are a child’s first “real” book written for children who are becoming fluent, independent readers. The main character is usually 8 or 9 years old and includes real-life and fantasy settings. Stories contain a lot of action with short paragraphs and 3-4 page chapters. Humor, mystery, and adventure are popular genres.
Examples: Captain Underpants, Clementine, Magic Tree House, The Time Warp Trio, Amber Brown
Middle Grade Novel
Word Count – 20,000-40,000 Words
Description: Middle grade novels are geared to 10-12 year olds, also known as tweens, with genres similar to those of adult fiction: mystery, adventure, humor, historical, contemporary, fantasy. Most plot lines, characters, and settings are acceptable, although intense subjects, such as divorce, peer pressure, and drugs/alcohol should be handled skillfully. Manuscripts are 100-150 pages with complex stories involving subplots, secondary characters, and sophisticated themes. Protagonists should be 9-13 in age and embody the worldview and emotions of middle graders.
Examples: Diary Of A Wimpy Kid, Loser, Holes, Hoot, Stargirl
Age 12 and up
Word Count – 40,000 – 75,000 Words
Description: YA books are for ages 12 and up with genres similar to those of adult fiction: mystery, adventure, humor, historical, contemporary, and fantasy. Plots are complex involving several major characters, although a single protagonist should emerge as the focus of the book. Themes should be relevant to a teenager’s world. “Edgy YA” includes subjects such as sexuality, drugs/alcohol, bullying, and mental illness.
Examples: The Fault in Our Stars, The Hunger Games, Between Shades of Gray, Twilight, 13 Reasons Why
To write is to know your readers. The first step is to read as many books as you can for your target audience and then of course, write on!